We interviewed Kelly Brown a year ago on the eve of the 2016 Melrose Sevens, chatting about his rugby journey which today he confirmed is coming to an end – at least on the playing side of things.
In representing Scotland in Bucharest back in 2005, Kelly Brown realised an ambition held by every rugby fan in the country, even scoring on debut against Romania to crown a pretty impressive introduction to the international game.
64 caps down the line, 14 of which were won as captain, the former Earlston High School pupil continues to perform at the highest level with a Saracens side gunning for success both in England and in Europe.
Yet despite numerous achievements in the sport, the 33 year-old flanker still holds dear his experiences of performing and spectating at the Melrose sevens, as he explained: “I played in a few and I seem to remember we never did very well as I remember!
“We got to the quarter-final a couple of times but that was about it. It was always a great day out and being from there, being brought up with it, makes it the biggest day of the year for a lot of people from Melrose.
“Running out onto the pitch with a packed crowd watching from all the surrounding towns is some experience and I was very fortunate to play there a few times before joining the Border Reivers.”
In a stellar professional career that followed his Greenyards days, Kelly played his part in two Aviva Premiership titles as well as a trip to the Heineken Cup final in 2014, when they went down to Toulon in Cardiff.
In amongst the glory at Sarries lies the Melrose 7s title that Kelly was indeed part of; he coached the victorious side of 2012 to the first of two consecutive crowns with a squad containing now-Scotland cap Duncan Taylor.
Of that day four years ago, Kelly said: “It was great to come back and lead a young group of boys to such a prestigious win.
“Events like Melrose can be a real launch pad for players’ careers. If you’re young and have a lot of pace it gives exposure on a big stage with a big audience and the fact that it’s shown on TV every year means anyone can watch the success stories.”
A success story is how one would describe Brown’s career. Since leaving Glasgow Warriors for Saracens back in 2010, he has made over 110 appearances and wants to continue the journey at a club he loves: “I was obviously very happy in Scotland but having been a professional there for six years, I was fortunate enough to receive an offer from Saracens and had to make a decision.
“It’s always a gamble to leave familiar surroundings and I felt it was very much a ‘sink or swim’ situation, but I’m so glad I took that gamble as Saracens are an incredible club. They look after us and our families in such a professional way and so I’d always encourage players to try something new.
“We’d love to keep all the Scotland players at Scottish clubs but there simply isn’t enough room. If I’d stayed at Glasgow then who’s to say Rob Harley or Ryan Wilson wouldn’t have come through to play for Scotland?”
Speaking of which, as unlikely as a national recall may seem under Vern Cotter’s current regime, Kelly harbours nothing but pride at what he managed to achieve in a Scotland shirt for the best part of a decade: “There was never really an announcement to be made about retiring from international rugby because I didn’t get named in the World Cup training squad, so it would have been a bit like acting after the horse had bolted.
“I’m so lucky to have won 64 caps for my country and even luckier to have had the honour of leading them 14 times. I’d have liked to have won more matches of course but I can always assure everyone that it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
“I believe that the team are very close at the moment but then again that’s been the case for the last five or six years. After a fairly successful World Cup when we should have beaten Australia- the referee is irrelevant- it’s time to start winning games and realising our potential, because it is definitely there.”
A stalwart of modern Scottish rugby, Kelly Brown can rest assured that if he doesn’t officially don the national shirt again his international career will forever be appreciated by the masses. Perhaps he could even finish up in a few years back where it all started at The Greenyards…
THE AULD ALLIANZ
- 64 caps for Scotland
- Four tries against Romania, Pacific Islanders, Portugal and France
- Captain on 14 occasions, leading Scotland to third in 2013 6 Nations
- Played in eight World Cup matches with win rate of 62.5%